Dangers of Fad Dieting

Woman with a scale.

The dangers of fad dieting should be enough to make anyone steer clear of these methods of weight loss. It's one thing to want to eat better in order to lose weight, but going on a fad diet is something else entirely. Fad diets promise that by combining the right foods, eliminating the right foods or taking the right pills you'll be instantly transformed into a sleeker, sexier you. The only problem is that fad diets generally don't work. Often times you'll end up setting yourself up for serious health problems and a higher weight. You should know the dangers of fad dieting before you embark on a practice that could put your health at risk.

What Are Fad Diets?

Fad diets or crash diets are designed to help you lose weight quickly. By severely restricting your diet, they force your body to drop weight fast. Most rely on the elimination of a certain food group or emphasizing "miracle" foods that will help you lose weight. These diets all have a few basic components in common. They all claim very quick weight loss that flies in the face of conventional dieting wisdom. The diets also require you to severely change the way you eat by dropping calories or avoiding entire food groups. Other fad diets are based on "food myths" that haven't held up against science. Food combining diets, negative calorie diets and fat flush diets all fall under this category.

The Dangers of Fad Dieting

As a result of following a fad diet, different negative results can result.

Nutritional Deficiencies

Crash dieting itself is hard on the body. When you deprive yourself of proper nutrition, your body begins to suffer. The natural vitamins, minerals and nutrients that you get through a normal, balanced diet are important to the way that your body functions. Your stores become depleted. Your skin, hair and nails will show the first signs of malnutrition. If you stay on a fad diet for a long time you'll notice that you'll begin to shed hair more frequently. Your nails will be brittle and will break more often. Your skin will lose its shine and you may develop dark circles under your eyes. These nutritional deficiencies are a direct result of not getting the nutrients you need from a fad diet.

Metabolic Problems

In addition to the nutritional deficiencies, fad diets also mess with your metabolism. When you eat too little food you slow your metabolism. As a result, your body will hold onto the few calories that you do eat. When you go off the diet, your body won't use food as efficiently and you'll actually put yourself in a position to gain more weight in the future. This is the reason that many people who try fad diets end up in a pattern of yo-yo dieting. They go on a fad diet and lose weight. Then when they go off the diet they immediately gain weight because of their slow metabolisms. The next diet that they go on slows down their metabolisms even more and it becomes harder and harder to lose weight.

Muscle Loss

Most fad diets claim that you don't have to exercise in order to lose weight. This combined with the fact that fad diets leave you malnourished means that the weight you're losing might not be fat. Muscle weighs more than fat and is just as easily lost as fat. Losing muscle may help you lose total weight, but muscle helps you burn calories while you are in a resting state. If you lose muscle mass because of fad dieting, you'll have a lot of trouble keeping weight off.

Caffeine and Stimulants

When it comes to fad diet pills, the dangers of fad dieting are even greater. Many rely on caffeine and other harmful chemicals to increase your heart rate and suppress appetite. Putting that many chemicals in your body isn't good for your heart. Heart failure and other serious problems have been linked to diet pills that are now off the market. However, the pills that are currently available come with a host of warnings and may be just as dangerous.

How to Spot a Fad Diet

Fad diets come in all shapes and sizes. Just like fashion fads, they go in and out of style. Just because a diet is popular doesn't mean that it is effective or good for you. If you're considering going on a diet, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Does the diet make wild claims about weight loss (e.g. Lose 10 pounds in one week!)
  2. Does the diet use a single study as a basis for its claims?
  3. Does the diet claim that you can lose weight without exercise?
  4. Does an element of the diet have warnings against it? (e.g. FDA has warnings against an ingredient in a fad diet supplement)
  5. Does the diet eliminate one of the five food groups?
  6. Does the diet sound too good to be true?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, you're looking at a fad diet. Steer clear of it. To lose weight the right way, you study healthy eating and nutrition and talk with your doctor.

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Dangers of Fad Dieting